Mining Data

Tik-Tak-Tik-Tak-Tik-Tak-Tik-Tak. Gemma’s knitting was getting on his nerves today, and Mr Amin wondered why. She was usually a quiet presence in the corner of the lounge and her daily knitting was reassuring – something small and progressive in a huge unstable world. He liked to watch her knitting and purling, creating new patterns on new garments to enrich people’s lives. There were hats and socks and sometimes jumpers. Mr Amin saw that her knitting style was changing. Each stitch was smaller and tighter, as if pulled into itself, and she was working faster. He wondered whether she was working towards some crazy knitting goal, or it was just natural progression of skill

James seemed to be unsettled. Mr Amin said, “How are you doing today?” James didn’t respond directly but rolled his eyes and his head gave a shudder. Something was bothering him. When someone is the victim of a serious stroke, it’s hard to say what. Mr Amin held his hand briefly and said, “Be well, James. Be well.” He wondered what people did to end up like this. Was Karma just?

“What are you doing to him?” said Gemma, looking up from her knitting without speed or rhythm wavering. “He won’t respond to you. Why do you bother?”

Her insensitivity annoyed Mr Amin but she couldn’t rile a trained diplomat so easily. He said, “It’s always worth bothering with people, Gemma. You never really know how you will affect them, so I feel it is best to treat people kindly, and what happens after that is beyond my control.”

Gemma said, “Huh!” and clicked her needles more loudly. Tik-TAK-Tik-TAK-Tik-TAK-Tik-TAK.

He felt that he had better sooth her too, saying, “What are you making Gemma? Is it a hat?”

She brightened at the opportunity to talk about herself. “Yes it is. I sell them to Guru Baba’s disciples. Because of my career as a math teacher, I know about sacred geometry, it’s just combinations of shapes. They want a set of twelve hats with holy symbols. This one has OM.”

“What about the others? What’s on those?”

“Well, here’s my list. There’s OM right here, then a Cross, Star of David, Crescent Moon, Dharma Wheel, Khanda, Taijitu, Water symbol, Torii Gate, Bahai Star, Pentagram, and Black Sun, the symbol of mystics.”

Mr Amin thought back to his father’s funeral forty two years ago, with OM’s and swastikas chalked around the pyre. His father had risen from a small village to become Northern India’s Minister of Culture, a wonderful model for social mobility. He had become very wealthy and had the ability to get anything done, even the impossible – like freeing up land for power projects. Imagine if the dams and drilling hadn’t gone through – India’s development would have been hampered. Despite Mr Amin and his brothers finding daily blackouts exciting, in later years he felt sad that his nation couldn’t even keep its fridges running.

He was proud of his father’s achievements and had entered politics at an early age. He had risen in the diplomatic service before being himself appointed Minister of Culture upon his father’s death. He was shocked when he examined his father’s files though. Many were missing and the ones present bore great holes. Financial ones. His father had not been as noble as he had thought. It was India after all. Everybody was corrupt. His discovery shouldn’t take anything away from his father’s achievements. His administration was just tempered by practicality. Mr Amin wondered why he was thinking about this now. He hadn’t done so in years.

Tik-TAK-Tik-TAK-Tik-TAK-Tik-TAK.

James too was thinking about his father, who’d run a mining company in BC. He’d come from Ireland with nothing and spent ten years searching for gold. His claim near Golden had eventually yielded rich results and he had become very wealthy. Rather than squander his gains though, he had used them to build up his business, expanding from Golden into other parts of BC. James had loved the extraction operations. He’d operated trucks and crushers from an early age, mining copper, silver, nickel, and zinc. His father was especially proud when James made his own discoveries.

On James’s 21st birthday, his father had said “Son you are ready to take over from me. I’ve spend much of my life here, and now I’m going out to see the world. He had travelled to the world’s great holy places – its great excavations and constructions – Rome, Delphi, Jerusalem, Giza, Petra, Moenjodaro, and the Taj Mahal. In India he’d heard about a big mining company behaving badly. He’d discovered that to secure extraction rights they were destroying an ancient temple and forcing poor villagers from their homes. He’d started a campaign to save the village and temple. The big mining company had complained to Mr Amin Sr., the Minister of Culture, who decided that this foreigner was a threat to the development of his nation’s resources, and also to his fat commission. James’s father disappeared one day on a site visit, and his body was never found.

Now at Open Hearts seniors daycare centre it was Mr Amin’s duty to care for James. Karma was more complex than straight addition and subtraction. Fathers’ sins were also visited upon sons. Tik-Tak-Tik-Tak-Tik-Tak-Tik-Tak.

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